Republican AGs push for shield law

Chris Rizo Sep. 12, 2008, 3:17pm

Rob McKenna (R)

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)-A group of 13 Republican state attorneys general are urging Republican U.S. senators to back legislation that would limit the federal government's ability to force reporters to reveal their confidential sources.

The Free Flow of Information Act, already approved by House and awaiting a vote in the Senate, would bring federal law in line with state laws in 49 states that protect reporters' confidential sources in most cases.

The letter seeks to allay concern that if enacted the law could fetter the government's pursuit of terrorists.

"As our states' chief law enforcement officers, we are in a unique position to confirm that our shield laws have not resulted in any degradation in our ability to protect our citizens," said the letter sent this week. "Still, important provisions have been added to this legislation to carefully and thoroughly protect national security and public safety."

The letter notes that Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain of Arizona supports the bill, as do Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Richard Lugar of Indiana.

Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna has called for the law's passage, noting that every state in the union except for Wyoming has a shield law.

"Failure to approve a federal standard jeopardizes the strength of those laws and chills candid disclosure by legitimate confidential sources. Federal legislation is crucial if our state laws are to provide any meaningful protection," McKenna said.

For its part, the White House has threatened to veto the legislation, arguing it would encourage leaks of classified information to the press.

In addition to McKenna the following AGs signed on to the letter: John Suthers of Colorado, Bill McCollum of Florida, Mark Bennett of Hawaii, Lawrence Wasden of Idaho, Mike Cox of Michigan, Jon Bruning of Nebraska, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Wayne Stenehjem of North Dakota and Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania.

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